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Labor Movement. The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend. [11½" X 3"]

Labor Movement. The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend. [11½" X 3"]

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Destroying collective bargaining rights is one of the most important structural reforms that any right-wing government in a developed country can win. And it is not just because, as has been widely noted, unions contribute money to the campaigns of Democratic candidates. It is much deeper than that. Organized labor is relatively weak now, but for more than a century it has been the most important force for positive economic reforms in the United States, from the eight-hour work day, to health insurance and Medicare, social security, pensions and minimum wages. The labor slogan, "Unions: the folks who brought you the weekend," is a true but vastly understated historical reality in America.

Ronald Reagan understood this very clearly when he fired 12,000 air traffic controllers soon after taking office in 1981 to break their strike and begin a new era of labor suppression in which private sector workers all but lost their rights to organize unions. His agenda was so radical that it scared many conservatives – which was one reason he lost the 1976 Republican nomination. Even after he won the presidency in 1980, much of the business class was not convinced that it was possible to revert to 19th century labor relations – until Reagan did it. Unions were 20 percent of the private sector labor force when Reagan was elected; they are 6.9 percent today.

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